Friday, February 29, 2008

So I guess I’d better write about blogging, Janet. (I’m a Barbara Pym fan, I might mention.)

Why do we do it, standing in the garden like this talking to the birds? I went back just now and read some of my early entries – written in 2004, crikey! It sounds as it does today, with no comments. I used to get all excited, then, when a comment came in. I still do. I love them, and I can share your pain, Shandy, at not getting many.

I like best blogs like yours, where little bits of life peep out around the edges of the knitting. I’m not so keen on the Big Shots like the Yarn Harlot and Crazy Aunt Purl. The exceptions are Annie Modesitt and Franklin, both very big shots indeed. And The Curmudgeon and Joe, who are pretty big shots. I think I usually abandon a blog at about the point where its author gets a book contract, but in Franklin’s case, I’m looking forward to sending him a copy to autograph.

And I’m not keen on blogs where the writer’s life doesn’t appear to have a central interest, so that the writer can write about that and only incidentally about him/herself. I’ve entirely given up on Dooce. This is a contrarian view. Not only does she write well, she makes a living at it.

In my early blogging days, I see that I was still a member of the Knitlist. Indeed, a Listmom. Thank goodness that’s over. I think one needs some internet-knitting-input in one's life, to balance the outflow. Blog-reading, Ravelry, whatever. I think you might be cheered by embedding a hit-counter: I use Google Analytics. I would have been delighted when I first did that, to find that I had 50 readers. It turned out there were more than 100. There are about 300 of us these days.

Another thing you might think of is joining a blog like Zimmermania (since you’ve recently knit the Baby Surprise). There you can blog away to your heart’s content, or not, and not feel judged.

A foodie magazine I read said yesterday, in a little piece on How to be a Food Blogger, that you’ve got to post regularly. I feel that, and conscientiously do so, but the people I really want to read – listed above – can post as rarely as they like, and find me camped on the doorstep when they get back.

Well, that didn’t amount to much. Bits of advice, not much philosophy. But I hope you’ll take it up again, Shandy.

It’s a dull morning here, weather-wise, but I’ll take a gansey-picture anyway in a moment. I did the neck last night, and it will clearly have to be revisited. 45% or not, it’s too big. Severe-er decreasing, and more depth, if there’s yarn left at that point.

I like the finish, though: Brown-Reinsel says it comes from Gladys Thompson’s seminal work. A round of knit, two rounds of purl (ugh), another round of knit, cast off in knit. It looks nicely ethnic and nautical.

Angel, I like Brown-Reinsel’s “Knitting Ganseys” a lot, and would highly recommend it. The only caveat, perhaps, is that she doesn’t have quite enough to say to make a whole book, and the effort she has put into stretching it out sometimes makes it hard to find what you’re looking for. But she’ll teach you how to design a gansey, and make it fun – I can guarantee that.

And your blog reminds me – I don’t read foodie blogs, but I love it when knitting bloggers embed recipes.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I wonder if I am going to get so swept up in Comments and Politics today that I still won’t have time to talk to Shandy about blogging or Catriona about Godparents.


Fiberqat – this is important – asks about the Games. I wonder if there is some way I could get them into the sidebar, because they are a leit motif in my life, I hope that’s spelled right, like Christmas and more fun.

The Strathardle Highland Gathering is held on the Bannerfield, K*rkmichael, Perthshire, on the Fourth Saturday of August, always. It’s a public event, a jolly outing for the whole family, to coin a phrase, and I hope that one day a blog-reader will come and say hello, identifying me easily by my new Dolores sweatshirt. I’ll pour you some cider from the ample supply in the back of our car.

(The link is to last year’s shirt, which I am wearing as I sit here typing. I’ll have a brand new one on Games Day.)

For us, as for many locals, it’s Family Reunion Day. This picture, from ’03, gives something of the flavour. My husband on the left of the bench, son-and-law Ed and daughter Rachel and various grandchildren filling the rest of it, Alexander and his wife Ketki behind. I knit Alexander’s hose.

Knitting comes in because there is a Home Industries Tent – something, perhaps, like a very-small-beer county fair. Cooking, flowers, vegetables, children's classes, and handicrafts, including knitting. I usually compete, and until last year, never win.

Here we segue towards politics.

Dorie, you said in a comment a while ago that Hillary’s tale would make a good opera. I read this article from the Wall Street Journal this morning, comparing the story to a tragic film. My own thought had been that it resembles one of those scenes in Shakespeare or Greek tragedy where messenger after messenger comes in with bad news. Act V Scene V of Macbeth, for instance.

I am reading voraciously on the subject of American politics. iGoogle offers some good suggestions every morning. My sister pointed me to the RealClearPolitics site, which fills the rest of the day. And the indefatigable Helen, knower of all things web-connected, told me about Justin Webb’s blog – he is the BBC Washington correspondent, and I think I’m enjoying him most of all. He provides a link today to this wonderful article about Ohio. I went to college in Ohio.

We’d better have a bit here about knitting. Ruth wants to know if I invented the pattern for Theo’s gansey. No: it’s in Brown-Reinsel’s book “Knitting Ganseys”. It’s on the cover, in fact. Her exemplar is for a small child; I did the arithmetic to scale it up more than a bit, for Theo.

I picked up stitches for the neck last night. B-R says to pick up 45% of the body stitches. By the time I had incorporated the live stitches front and back, and picked up a reasonable number on each side, I had more than that, so I spent some time ensuring that a k2 rib straddled each of the four corners, and I will mitre it slightly. Picture soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Alexander's Birthday

OK: Games ’08

For the first time I can remember, both knitting categories are attractive. They are: “Knitted slippers” and “Sweater with motif”.

There was a wonderful slipper pattern in VK once, and, astonishingly, I have kept a note of where it was: Turkish slippers in Winter 98-99. I haven’t looked at them yet – I just found the reference in my electronic Filofax (Lotus Organizer). My husband is still asleep in the room with the stack of VK’s.

One of the most successful sweaters I ever knit was VK’s dinosaur sweater, Holiday ’87, for Thomas-the-Elder. I hit it lucky with yarn, Jaeger Spiralspun I think, and Rachel was able to hand the sweater down through subsequent children where it continued to excite admiration.

But that has more than one motif, and the rubric in the Games programme is clearly in the singular. I may do it anyway, unless someone comes up with a better idea.

The moral is, keep notes. I thought I would be days hunting for those patterns. I’ve just looked up “Turkish slippers” in Ravelry. There are some nice ones, but nothing as good as I remember the VK pattern to be.


Barring disaster, I will finish a skein of yarn today – the second of the three designated for this sleeve. In length, I am only just beyond half-way.

I have already decreased 35% of the original sleeve stitches, and of course the decreases continue. The second skein contributed about 8” to the desired 25” total – obviously the third will have to do better, and obviously it will. The arithmetic is beyond me; I’ll just have to plough on. The difficulty is that the final seven inches are not-to-be-changed: an inch of separator-band, three inches of plain st st, three inches of cuff. So if there isn’t enough yarn, fairly serious frogging looms.

Maybe I’d better stop right now and follow your advice, Tamar: on to the neck ribbing, and see what's left of the skein designated for that.


Shandy, I was desperately touched by your comment yesterday, and moved to write an essay on the Philosophy of Blogging. But I’ve left it too late, and must get on with Wednesday. Tomorrow, I hope.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kathy. you’ve got it right. I thought there must have detailed exposition somewhere of the thinking behind the gansey.

The trouble turns out to have been, that I didn’t refer to Barack Obama by name in the crucial passages, so the search failed. My sister sent me the famous picture of Theo and Obama on February 12, '07 (it’s on the first page of my website – see sidebar). I put it in the blog on Feb 13, along with a general discussion of knitting cashmere, a propos the then-new cashmere Koigu.
You wrote: “If cashmere Koigu will help your nephew help get That Politician elected, I'll contribute some!”

And I said, the next day: “Kathy in Juneau, you’ve hit a totally illogical nerve to which I feel absurdly responsive. Would knitting a cashmere Koigu for Theo somehow qualify as putting one’s shoulder to the forward propulsion of the BO bandwagon?

I had a similarly ridiculous feeling when my daughter Helen was pregnant for the second time.Her eldest son died at six weeks, and is buried (in K*rkmichael) wrapped in his shawl. For Archie, who came next, I knit this one, of Jamieson & Smith lace-weight. It was for me, at the time, a forward movement into the unknown, finer yarn and fancier lace than I had ever tackled before. And I constantly felt, as I worked on it, that I was helping God knit the baby. First the endless edging – it’s an Amedro pattern, and that’s the way she does things – while the baby himself took shape and Helen felt lousy. Then the fun part, while Archie grew and got strong.

So you may well have contributed to a sweater for Theo, if not necessarily to the next presidency, although we can hope.”

So that settles that. Thank you.

The idea of using cashmere Koigu was abandoned when I saw some -- it doesn't glow like real Koigu.

The gansey is getting on fine. The sleeve decreases have now become sensible. (The OED gives that meaning of the word first, although it adds “in this use, now rare”. I can’t think of an alternative.) I measured and did the calculations again last night, and find that continuing to decrease one-round-in-three will result in a slightly-too-long sleeve. I’ve decided not to change, though. I could accelerate during the plain bit above the cuff (where the initials BHO will go, on the right sleeve); or decrease more than planned in the round immediately above the cuff; or have a few more stitches than currently planned in the cuff itself.

This rummage in the archives has taken up so much space that it’s time to stop. Knitting-for-the-Games-in-ought-eight should have been on yesterday’s list of topics. Maybe I’ll start there tomorrow.

Monday, February 25, 2008


It took me a moment or two, Ted, to find a picture of a bishop in gaiters for you. Search Google images on “CofE bishop” and you get a lot of head-and-shoulder shots and pictures of bishops in calf-concealing vestments. Search on “Bishop’s gaiters” and it turns out there is a football/basketball team (maybe both) of that name somewhere. I didn’t explore that avenue. It might be interesting. Here’s what I was looking for.

I met one so dressed at a university party in Leicester once. (Not Bishop Rutt, I don’t think – although he was Bishop of Leicester at one point. I didn’t know about him then, and I sometimes wonder.) It was all I could do not to say, “You must know the Proudies.”

Shandy, the New Scarves will continue to be a recurring theme here, as below – but have you seen their Knitalong? You should take up blogging again – I love your Mondrian-rug.


So, what are the topics that need to be covered? Too many for today, certainly. In no particular order:


Progress of Theo’s gansey (those two themes intimately linked)

“Knitting America”

“Knitting” magazine

Vegetable gardening in central Perthshire (including your kind and helpful suggestion,

Edinburgh’s new LYS

Politics is/are urgent and current – let’s start there.

You’ll notice that our contribution-thermometer has advanced slightly. A knitter made a contribution which I matched on the day before the Wisconsin primary. I have a superstitious hope that another will come in before March 4. My sister has written the promised essay about why she profers Obama to Clinton. Worth reading.

I went back through the blog archives to try to find the connection of thought – there must have been one – between Theo’s gansey and Obama’s campaign. All I could find was the bald sentence: “Maybe I could get Obama elected by knitting Theo a cashmere gansey.” That was early last year, when Mrs Clinton seemed a shoo-in. You’ll have to admit, it seems to be working.

I think the basic idea was something like the shawls I have knit for unborn grandchildren, while worrying about the pregnancy. Knitting prayers into the stitches, if you like.

I hesitated about whether to take yesterday off for scarf-knitting, with the Alamo so close. I decided to go ahead, although I probably won’t next Sunday. Here’s the current state of the Stacked Wedges from "Knitting New Scarves". It’s very easy. A languid Sunday easily adds a foot, so it’ll be finished one day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here we are back, tired. It was a good week. I did a bit in my vegetable plot, on the days when it wasn’t frozen solid or waterlogged. I humped two barrow-loads of manure home over the field (and they’re heavy). I sawed some wood. I left feeling confident that I am strong enough to grow a vegetable or two this one more year. This morning, I’m not so sure.

I had been feeling rather jealous of Helen's freedom (Feb 18), now that the beautiful Mavis is nearly finished. My knitting future seems to be mortgaged as far as the eye can see. When Theo’s gansey is done – and that is beginning to seem like something that might one day happen – I must take on the swallow-tail coat, and behind that lies the Princess, stretching out to the horizon.

But in K*rkmichael, I realised last week, freedom indeed has nearly arrived. This is where I am with the Araucania sweater – one more trip north should see it done. What next? I shall have a delicious time thinking about that question over the next few days.


Mel, Helen is right: you must wear kilt hose with your kilt. And nothing shows off a gent’s well-shaped calf (such as I am sure you possess) so well, except perhaps a bishop’s gaiters.

Kate, you’re right: Cardiff is just down the road. Let’s hope it happens!

A week of not-blogging has left my head full of stray sentences and even paragraphs, but with no sense of where to begin. Perhaps I’d better re-group and start again tomorrow. Here are some snowdrops:

Sunday, February 17, 2008


(There were some! There were none at all on Friday, except for one piece of junk, soon deleted. I was in the Slough of Despond.)

Southern Gal, Leigh’s Ravelry code-name is lwitchel. Easy, once you know. It’s nice to hear from a friend of his. He has been knitting some interesting things lately, and his prose hasn’t lost its edge. My heart leapt when I saw that he was knitting “wedding socks”, thinking of Mel and his Wedding Vest – but in Leigh’s case, they’re for friends.

And thanks to everybody for their help with the gansey sleeves. Here’s where I am at the moment, photographed indoors in the morning dim. Stitch definition almost disappears, but you can see how the sleeve has progressed.
That’s where things will rest for the week.

Julie, I had thought of making the sleeves authentically short, if necessary. Not a bad idea. And your idea, Tamar, of stopping right now and knitting the neck, so as to determine exactly how much yarn remains, is an excellent one.

I don’t seem to have kept a record of how much yarn I bought in the first place. Foolish. Once I cast it on, I deleted its entry from the Ravelry stash, where the answer was previously lodged. However, I searched my perennially-untidy inbox and found last summer’s receipt from fifteen skeins. It seems impossible, but ought to know. In that case, I’ve got enough yarn to make the sleeves down to the ground. When I finish, I should know exactly how much yarn is in each sleeve, and will test your 2/3rds-1/3rd theory, Ron.

I don’t remember how I calculated how much I’d need, but I do remember that I tried to err on the side of generosity.

I finished a skein last night, and joined in the next one. I paused at that point to re-measure sleeve and gauge, and re-calculate the decreases. From here on, it would appear that one paired decrease every three rounds will suffice. I’ll try again after another few inches.

I have formed some thoughts about “Knitting America” and about the British magazine, “Knitting”, but I had better devote myself this morning to getting us on the road to Strathardle. I spoke to the Home Industries Secretary yesterday about arrangements for returning the Glenisla Shield, won by Sam the Ram, and the Mandy Duncan cup, won by my granddaughter Rachel for the best entry in the children’s classes, at the Games last summer. (Our names will now be engraved on these trophies.) She says that the new programme has been published. So when I get back, I’ll be able to tell you what I’ll be knitting for the Games this year.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Good progress yesterday. I took some pictures in the afternoon, while the sun shone, but I’ve done more knitting since then, and should manage still more today.

I like the way the reverse st st gusset looks, now that it’s finished. I like the way the whole thing looks. Famous last words.

I feel very slight tingles of anxiety about whether I have enough yarn. When the shoulders were joined, there were seven skeins left – three for each sleeve, I figured, and one for the neck ribbing. Although that won’t take a whole skein.

I’m now about to polish off the first of those seven skeins, and I am only about 5” along a 25” sleeve. The stitches, however, are decreasing at an orderly trot, and I’m probably going to be all right. I can re-group when the next skein is finished.

I did the sleeve-decrease-arithmetic last night, using Brown Reinsel’s formulas, and arrived at the conclusion that I need to decrease two stitches every 2.5 rounds. She doesn’t say what to do in a situation like that, where rounding either up or down doesn't appear to be an option. I am alternating the decreases every-three-rounds and every-two rounds and will continue like that until I collapse in confusion. When I stop to consider how far the yarn is going, I’ll re-count and re-calculate the stitches as well.

I went back to Ravelry yesterday and updated things. I found that Leigh Witchel had added me as a friend, and rapidly did the same for him. His is a Name from the early, great days of the Knitlist. His avatar Phyllis Stein is Dolores’ soul-sister. He is a choreographer and a knitter – I have actually knit his famous “puzzlebox Aran” from a long-ago Knitter’s (for Theo’s father Roger) and, indeed, actually met Leigh, on a long-ago trip to NY. I was glad to see that Dance as Ever and Leigh’s knitting career both appear to prosper.

The arrival of the new IK (Spring) was a pleasant surprise, but I don’t think there’s anything there for me, and I found the articles a disappointment. I wish they’d given Mar more space to write about Ravelry – she hardly had a chance to get started. I like the Chameleon Scarf but will never submit myself to the fiddliness of knitting it. I rather like Eunny’s Katharine Vest but it’s too ladylike for me.

On the other hand, the Minimalist Cardigan last fall completely passed me by, but now that people are finishing and wearing it, I’m thinking again. From a great distance – there’s too much to do at the moment.

Here is the latest Yarn Yard sock yarn. It’s time for me to renew my membership, and I think I’m going to have to do it, although there soon won’t be room here for living. My Beautiful Blue and Perthshire Berries from the same source haven’t arrived yet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Here we still are. The original plan had been to go to Strathardle yesterday, but then we decided we needed to regroup, and then my husband’s new glasses turned out to be ready for collection today. The current plan is to go after Mass and lunch on Sunday and stay for most or all of next week.

Christmas in Strathardle was tough, and departure through the snowdrifts on January 4 was tougher. We both seem to have made one of those step-changes downwards towards decrepitude and the grave recently (maybe it’s just the time of year) and are both a little afraid that we’re not strong enough for country life any more. So it’s tempting to postpone, and it will be interesting to see how we get on.

More cheerfully, I moved nicely forward with the gansey sleeve yesterday. I think perhaps you’re right, Country Mouse, that left-sleeve-first is more appropriate. My mental calculations about how to centre the pattern proved to be spot-on. The gusset is nearly gone; I might even get as far as calculating the sleeve decreases today. And there should be enough for another photograph before we leave.

And on the subject of Obama-knitting (which the gansey mysteriously is), Helen in her comment yesterday offered this website, with a chart for his campaign symbol. She also mentioned Knitters for Obama, and I have added their button to my sidebar all by myself. It’s not a very interesting destination, and I won’t leave the button there forever, but I am very proud of having done it.

(Helen had previously sent me some boiler-plate HTML. All I have to do is substitute where appropriate the address of the button and the address of the destination to which I wish it to point.)

I have mentally promised Obama a donation if/when one of the five Vogue Knitting Books I lack turns up on eBay. My heart beat faster last night when they told me that No. 14 was on offer – but no, he’s out of luck. I’ve got that, although I’m still missing 16. Fourteen must be spring, 1939, if anybody’s interested.

I still have my finger on the credit-card, so to speak, ready to match any donation to the thermometer in the sidebar.

All this leaves a number of topics untouched: the new Yarn Yard sock club yarn, the Spring IK, “Knitting America” which I continue to read with close attention.

But I think I’ll just say that when I get to the next garter stitch band on the gansey sleeve, I’ll try the method you suggest, Tamar, for purling in the round. I think I may be too old to learn a new physical technique, but it’s worth trying.

And, Strimble, I think you must be right that the man on the BBC was referring to Mrs Clinton’s rally on Tuesday in El Paso rather than the one on Wednesday in San Antonio. I finally found this on YouTube, although I haven’t watched much of it. It seems to me boring rather than actually unhinged.

Tamar, I didn’t mean my Fibertarian sweatshirt to be snide, although I’m delighted that you think so. Just, appropriate for an event attended by so many sheep (at the agricultural show in the adjacent field).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A BBC commentator on the early-morning radio today referred to Hillary’s “slightly unhinged performance” at a rally in Texas yesterday. I’ve googled around, and I think that must be San Antonio, but I can’t find a video clip. Anybody? He went on to say that she has won all the states anybody has ever heard of (he was speaking to the British, remember, slightly tongue-in-cheek). I would except CT, but essentially he was right. The polls still favour her strongly in Ohio.

What I discovered as I googled about was that March 4 is the anniversary of the Alamo. Somebody Up There has a sense of humour.

I am terribly grateful to you all for bearing with me. Many must be bored or even antagonistic to all this. I’ve never been even mildly interested in primaries before, nor so fired up about a presidential election since Adlai Stevenson stood against Ike in ’52. This one is better than rugby.


Try I think that will solve all your problems, but if it doesn't, write to me again, with an email address. I tried to get in touch with you directly yesterday, but failed.


I joined the gansey shoulders, calculated the sleeves with care – doesn’t mean I’ve got it right – and picked up stitches, 200 of them, for what I realised too late is the left sleeve. I’m starting off with a few ridges of garter stitch. I don’t mind purling in general, but purling in the round (necessary to achieve garter st in the round) is peculiarly unpleasant. That must be why EZ was so agin’ it.

Soon – today – I will have to set the pattern. Since I have put a ladder, rather than a snake, at the centre front and back, I want one to straddle the top of the sleeve. How to calculate? Yesterday, the problem defeated me. This morning, with synapses somewhat restored by sleep, I think I’ve got it, and even think I’ve worked it out without pencil, paper or calculator. Doesn’t mean I’ve got it right. I’ll tell you tomorrow.

At the moment, I’m decreasing the gusset on every third round. When that’s finished I’ll have to calculate the decrease rate for the rest of the sleeve. Sufficient unto the day…

The Royal Infirmary was more expeditious than usual yesterday. I nearly finished the heel flap of the KF sock, but I had expected to get further. However, plans are afoot for Rachel and her family to come up for Easter, joining Alexander and his family at Loch Fyne or in Glasgow. We’re included, and that should mean an outward and an inward journey and at least one night away: enough, with a bit of application, to finish the sock.

I haven’t added a button to the sidebar yet, but I updated Rachel, Alexander, James and Helen yesterday from Games Day ’05 to Games Day ’07. And I chose my costume for Games Day ’08. I’m going to wear a Fibertarian Party sweatshirt after all, but under it I will have on this tee-shirt, and I can always take off the sweatshirt and leave it in the car if the day is really hot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I woke at 4, turned on the radio, and the first word of the BBC World Service news bulletin was “Hillary”. I had time to think, for a split-second, she’s-done-another-New-Hampshire, before I heard the next three words: “on the ropes”.

I think there’s reason to hope, now, that March 4 will finish it off.

And look at our thermometer! I thought Theo’s $50 might languish alone, but when we got back from Glasgow last night I was met with the good news, and put in my matching funds for the day. I’m impressed with the software. When someone donates, Theo, as the registered thermometer-owner, gets a message from Obama headquarters with the donor’s email address. And when I did the matching, the red line shot encouragingly up more or less at once. I’ve visited many a commercial site which didn’t work as well.

Many thanks, from me as well as from Theo and Barack.

OK, knitting…

On the train journeys to and from Glasgow yesterday, I worked industriously on the second KF sock. I’m within a round or two of the heel flap. Today’s excitement is a routine hospital appointment for diabetes. I go along on those, and the Royal Infirmary provides plenty of knitting time. I should certainly get around the heel.

The ticket collector on the westward journey was a middle-aged woman who admired the sock and remembered learning to knit socks when she was at school. They don’t do that any more. She could never get the hang of finishing the toe, she said – I think she must have meant, Kitchener stitch – and used to run the yarn through the stitches and pull.

We had a nice lunch in a Thai restaurant with Alexander and Ketki. He was wearing his Calcutta Cup sweater. I don't think there will be any call for knitting another one this year.

In the evening I finished the front of the gansey – I’m sure you didn’t think Obama won so decisively yesterday on his own. The neck looks too big, but I can fill it up with ribbing. The initials are unusually legible in this picture. I hope to three-needle-bind-off the shoulders today and start down one of the sleeves. The right sleeve.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We’re going to Glasgow today, hoping to have lunch with Alexander and Ketki. So I must be relatively brief. The gansey has been divided for the shaped neck, and if I’m not too tired, I ought to be able to finish the front tonight. I mustn't be too tired, because tonight is a big one, and Obama needs me.

You will have noticed novelty in the sidebar. It doesn’t reflect any skill on my part – it links to the LeCompte Family donation-page: you’ll see the identical thermometer on their blog. Theo sent me some code and I bunged it in. If you feel like donating, please say that you have done so in a comment or more modestly, if you wish, in an email to me (address in sidebar), and I will match you. The initial fifty smackeroos came from Theo himself.

However, my own endeavours were not entirely feeble, either. I mastered buttons! I even had one of my own engineering there for a while – Kathy in Juneau saw it, for one. (Do, please, follow the link in her comment yesterday: it’s a riot!) But I was worried that I wasn’t entitled to the image I was using, and Theo suggested doing it this way. The Obama campaign is so well-organised and so internet-friendly that you’d think they’d have a little corner of their website headed Buttons for Your Blog, but they don’t seem to.

Maybe tomorrow, after we’ve recovered from Glasgow, I’ll put up a Knit From Stash ’07 button just to prove I can.

Emily, that’s an interesting point, about how prominent women are referred to. Literary critics offend all the time by referring to Jane Austen (for example) as “Jane” while they’d never dream of calling Chaucer “Geoffrey”.

In this case, though, I would defend general usage:

a) because a straight “Clinton” is potentially confusing, as Tamar says. It’s sort of like the way we sometimes refer to the present unpopular incumbent as “W"; and

b) because she does it herself. All the pictures I see of her rallies are populated with people waving placards which say “Hillary”, never “Clinton”. Whereas Obama’s placards call him “Obama”.

If we’re still feeling happy this time tomorrow, I think we may be on a roll.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mid-Stream Horse-Change

So, she’s changed her campaign manager, has she? Could it be she’s rattled?

It’s sort of funny that the Hillary camp actually seems to be complaining that Obama has better organisation. Hey, this is her third presidential campaign, she’s supposed to be the competent one who knows how things are done. He’s the new kid on the block, remember? whose inexperience will let him down.

I’m sure running a campaign is not exactly the same as running a country, but I suspect there are parallels.

Janet, you may be sure I am knitting the Obama sweater with great industry, except for taking yesterday off. It’s Theo’s gansey, and I have decided, after that happy weekend, that I will go ahead and put OHB in seed stitch on the lower right sleeve. Whatever happens from here on out, Obama is more than a footnote to the story of ’08. And this is the sweater, remember, which Theo has promised to wear to have his picture taken with Obama. He can point the initials out. (“They’re backwards because she was knitting from the top down…”: it’ll be what they call a Talking Point.)

I had a happy day’s scarf-knitting yesterday – Stacked Wedges from “Knitting New Scarves”. Manos yarn is silky when it’s pure wool. Manos Silk Blend, which I am using, is beyond sensuous. (I had to look that up; I got it confused with “sensual” once on a philosophy exam in my very distant youth.)

I chose a needle appropriate to the yarn, and the result is distinctly narrower than the pattern expects. It would have been easy enough to adapt, by casting on any odd number of stitches. However, I don’t think it matters. Helen’s is narrow too (although perhaps not quite as narrow as mine) and it’s stunning. The important thing is to make it generously long.

The pattern is fun, and easy. So easy, that the difficulty is remembering where you are in it.

I hope to crack the button thing today. Maybe I’ll have a Donate-to-Obama button in the sidebar soon.

I was grateful for, and appalled by, the comments yesterday on health care. It is depressing that you think neither Democrat can crack it. I remember – I wish I had it now – an excellent New Yorker article during Hillary’s first attempt, explaining that she was bound to fail because of the insurance companies and the way they worked. Quite apart from their profits, the cost of all those people who process claims must be prodigious.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not only were last night’s primary results good, from my point of view, but the BBC World Service, – to which we, like many an elderly insomniac, listen all night long – for the first time since this caper began, didn’t feel it necessary to broadcast repeated clips from victory rallies with everybody shouting.

I slept peacefully and got out of bed this morning not even knowing what had happened. I must have dozed through the early-morning news.

Still on the subject of politics…

One of the things I am doing in my jigzone-less state, is catch up on blog-reading. This morning I got to the Knit Sisters' post of January 29, which was utterly horrifying and taught me a bit about that ever-mysterious subject, American health care. So, if you have proper health insurance it covers everything, does it? Like visits to the dr to discuss your asthma?

I guess, amidst the horror, I was sort of surprised that Disaster-only insurance would cover a broken arm – happens to me all the time, and doesn’t involve in-patient care; I thought disasters were cancer and heart attacks and that sort of hospital-y thing. And the other surprise was that an asthma-visit was beyond the means of a struggling Poor Person who was already paying for Disaster Insurance. I thought that would be sort of necessary-and-therefore-somehow-affordable, like the unexpected and unwelcome things that happen from time to time to cars and computers.

If you have no money at all and are living in a box on the street, can you get help with asthma?

You guys certainly need to elect a Democrat.

A bit of knitting…

I got within a couple of rows of the divide-for-the-neck point of the gansey, watching Scotland lose another rugby match, this time to Wales. We hope to go to Strathardle on Thursday of this week, for the first time since our epic struggle to escape through the snow on January 4. It would be nice to have finished the front by then. But I’ll cast on the scarf today.

Jared has re-appeared, with some wonderful hats.

I’m working on buttons. In fact you’ll find an (inactive) one if you scroll down my sidebar. [No, it doesn't seem to be there.] I had a scheme, but it didn’t work. Next I’ll try it Helen’s way.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I am trying to give up for Lent – far harder than doing without cider – and it leaves me with no obvious warm-up activity when I first sit down in the morning. Today I have submitted a seed order to the Real Seed people, and ordered my beautiful blue yarn for the Poet’s Coat (almost certainly, too much of it) from the Yarn Yard. I threw in a skein of “Perthshire Berries” for obvious reasons.

Seed orders require cogitation, and browsing. So there’s not much time left for blogging.

I had a lot of help on the button-problem yesterday from Helen and Anncrafts and Kathy in Juneau, and I think I grasp the requirements. Anncrafts provides a link, in yesterday’s comment, to an extremely lucid article on the subject. Somebody should tell Google about it. I got nothing comprehensible from them. She also, if you follow the link to her blog, offers a very useful-sounding recipe for a lentil chilli.

Maybe tomorrow I will have a glorious button. Kathy mildly pointed out that I’ve already got one, for LibraryThing. So I have! But I think LibraryThing did all the work on that one, perhaps supplying me with some HTML to paste in.

Knitting-wise, I am very near the neck-division of the front of Theo’s gansey (it is to have a common-or-garden shaped neck) and may even reach it this evening. A good point to stop for my day-off of scarf knitting. According to a reckoning in Natalie’s blog (at the Yarn Yard), I’ll be 70% finished when the front is done. Sounds good! I must update Ravelry.


Theresa, I think it was the Whitewater business that got me feeling the Clintons weren’t desperately well off personally, or maybe were worried about what Chelsea’s education would cost. Not a logical conclusion, and anyway it was a long time ago – any number of prosperous Rodhams could have died in the years since and left their money to Hillary, as you rightly say. And you in the US don’t pay much inheritance tax, do you? And she would have made a packet, although not perhaps five million, from that book.

Thank you for the encouragement to go ahead with my Swiss Mountain cashmere and silk order. Maybe that will be tomorrow morning’s activity, if the credit card can take any more.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I had a nice time with Helen in John Lewis's yesterday. I didn’t much fancy the new Rowan book she had come to buy – too much Kidsilk Haze, which I have eschewed for life. Some nice KF stripes in there, admittedly. Neither of us bought any yarn! Although we were glad to note that the department seemed busy.

She was wearing the Stacked Wedges scarf from “Knitting New Scarves”, and I think that’s going to be my choice. I’ve been browsing the KNS Knitalong, however – the variety of things people choose to knit is a great tribute to the book – and am (a) tempted by the general enthusiasm for Shag and (b) tempted back towards Drifting Pleats by the happiness of the one blogger I read who had finished it. Maybe next time.

And next time is likely to be the Swiss Mountain cashmere and silk I have had my eye on for a while. I think it might lend itself well to pleat-drifting.

So that was nice. Although I'm no further forward on the question of how to add an active button to my sidebar.

Lindsay, the JL Rowan lady, lent me “Knitting America” which is extremely interesting. So far I have been mostly browsing the pictures, for it is truly lavishly illustrated, but I’m going to have to double back and pay strict attention to the text. I don’t think it’s quite as solidly scholarly as Bishop Rutt’s excellent book, but I’ll let you know. [Too many adverbs in that paragraph.]

And the news which Lindsay and Helen were talking about – and which I myself had an email about when I got home – is that Glasgow’s K1 Yarns is to open here in Edinburgh. No date yet, but the site is chosen. Back when I had the choice, I preferred our own HK Handknit. But now that that option is closed, it is great news that we are to have another specialist yarn shop here.

Since I seem to be flitting from Odds to Ends this morning: I followed Franklin’s link to Meg Swansen’s knitalongs yesterday. I tried the Conch Hat myself once – it’s tremendous fun, but mine came out sized for a premature baby, or perhaps a cat. I think maybe one would have to get the Sheepsdown yarn specified, and I’m not currently tempted, amidst my other temptations. But I’m going to sign on for the Kliban Hat, later on, even without a cat to knit for. It includes instructions for “adding color stripes in ribbing without producing a wrong side”. Wow!


Hillary says that the five million dollars she lent her campaign was all her own money, not Bill’s. So how did she come by five million dollars? If that much money sticks to subsidiary occupants of the White House, no wonder people are willing to put themselves through this ordeal to get there.

There was a depressing article in the Telegraph yesterday, rude about the whole process – “the whistling, yelling crowds….look dated, and somehow at odds with a country with as many difficulties as this one” – and about all the current participants. Most rude about Mrs Clinton, least rude about Mr. McCain.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I’ve cheered up a bit about Tuesday’s voting, although I still profoundly wish there were a way to put a stop to this. I can remember nothing like it. Whichever one wins, the nation will know that only half the Democratic party wanted it that way.

I am amused to learn that the Clintons have lent a lot of money to Hillary’s campaign. The BBC said that she had lent it to herself, but I have had a personal message from Obama’s campaign manager this morning, saying that it came from both of them. As must be the case. She couldn’t be that rich (one would hope), a hard-working senator like her. This must come from Bill’s post-presidential earnings and rather underlines his ambition to get back to the White House.

Theo made an interesting non-partisan appearance on local radio yesterday. He posted the URL in advance on the family blog, but when I tried to listen, I was told that access from outside the US was not allowed. (Did that happen to you, Janet?) His proud parents couldn’t hear it either, as they had a power failure at the crucial moment. So Theo sent us an electronic copy—that is, an audible one – last night, and I hope he will post that to the blog.

Enough politics. Too much.

The sun shone yesterday. Here’s the gansey, on the doorstep in my own shadow. I added a bit more last night. You can faintly discern the initials, TELeC, at the lower right just above the ribbing.

I have decided that it is silly not to allow myself one day a week of non-gansey-knitting, as planned, and have therefore started winding a skein of Manos Silk Blend and perusing “Knitting New Scarves” again. I’d like to knit Drifting Pleats, challenge-wise, but the author says it requires undivided attention throughout, and I’m not willing to give it that.

I’m interested in Tricorner, because it’s exactly the same technique as the Linked Rib I’ve already done, but produces an entirely different result. And I like Tilted Blocks a lot. But top of the mental list, at the moment, is Stacked Wedges. I’ll confer with Helen this afternoon. (Don’t miss Kristin Nicholas' comment of yesterday.)

Jean K., you’re absolutely right, “Knitting Lace” by Susanna Lewis is a marvellous book, full of excellent technical advice about using lace in knitting design. I forgot. I’m sorry to hear it’s hard to come by – the moral, as so often, is that you’d better go ahead and buy any knitting book you’re interested in right now, because it’s going to cost a packet on eBay in five years’ time.

Our granddaughter Kirsty Miles of Beijing was born in one of the rare years (2000) when Scotland won the Calcutta Cup, and I incorporated an image of it in her Christening shawl (bottom of page). I used Susanna Lewis’ exposition of the technique of curved faggotting, p. 145, for the handles.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Well, not much sleep, as predicted, and not much result, either. Some BBC pundit said yesterday what was beginning to worry me: is the Democratic party going to cleave itself asunder with all this, while the Republicans rally, however glumly, behind McCain? But I heard Howard Dean during the night say, no, this is fine, because it gives the nation a chance really to get to know the candidates.

I’ll let you know what I decide about tee-shirt-buying.

Meanwhile, Kathleen, that’s a good question, what is there to read about lace? And I don’t know the answer.

There is Margaret Stove’s book, “Designing Your Own Hand-Knitted Lace”. It has some good chapters about the structure of lace and the different effects of knitting it at different gauges. That is essentially the ground Shirley Paden covers in the article in the current VK, and I like her idea of referring to “single-sided” and “double-sided” lace.

Margaret Stove calls the two “knitted lace” and “lace knitting” (or else vice versa) and I cannot be the only knitter unable to remember which is which for 30 consecutive seconds.

But I can’t think that I’ve ever read anything about incorporating lace motifs in garment design, and that’s what I’m hoping for from SP next time.

Not much here. I went out to a committee meeting last night, advanced the current sock a few more rounds, but inevitably neglected the gansey. And it looks as if I’m going to have to knit remorselessly on, no idling away Sunday with scarves and hats and swatching linen stitch for the swallowtail coat.

I’m going to meet my friend Helen for coffee tomorrow. (John Lewis’s yarn dept. will be the assignation point.) I am desperately impressed that Kristin Nicholas describes Helen as a friend. She is very clever about computers as well as knitting, and may be able to teach me how to capture buttons for my sidebar.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Here we are: Fat Tuesday. I don’t anticipate much sleep tonight. My friend in Brookline says “Don't worry! My vote will be properly cast.” Is she being evasive?

Don’t miss Franklin today. (I trust you never do.) I’m not tempted by Dolores’ ingenious campaign package, but Joe and Mar will want to stock up. I spent awhile wandering around the Obama pages at Cafepress, after looking at Dolores’ work. There are some good tee-shirts by now. Maybe I’ll order one tomorrow if I’m feeling at all cheerful.

And speaking of ordering – I spent a few minutes at the Yarnyard yesterday, after posting my blog entry, as an alternative to standing up and facing the day, and found this among the sock yarns. Natalie describes it as “a beautiful clear blue”. What I am aiming at, as I have said, is “a swallowtail coat of a beautiful blue”. Since Natalie uses the actual word “beautiful” I take it as a sign, and shall proceed to order.

This is a sock yarn, and has almost twice as much metre-age to the gram as the alpaca specified for the Poet’s Coat. But since I have to do a big swatch and some substantial re-designing, that shouldn’t entirely matter. Maybe alpaca is heavier. Maybe I could use Natalie’s yarn double.

The Winter VK turned up yesterday, with some useful things in it. Lily Chin’s articles about fit have been consistently interesting.(Sleeves, this time.) I like Vladimir Teriokhin’s cropped cardi in Noro Silk Garden, no. 15. Shirley Paden is a top favourite designer of mine – she’s writing about designing with lace (which she does brilliantly) but this first article doesn’t get much beyond stating the obvious.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Scotland lost disgracefully, in a largely boring match. I don’t know if I can go on with this. I suppose I’ll have to register a flicker of interest on Calcutta Cup Day.

I forgot, yesterday, to list the Spinning Fishwife among the blogs that Make my Day. I’m now up to a baker’s dozen. This is harder than it looks.

I finished the back of the gansey yesterday, remembering to make it just fractionally short so that I can lengthen and narrow it at the blocking stage. It’s looking good. I’m glad I stuck with so simple a pattern. Less is more.

Kathy, I loved the Barack Obama link you sent me yesterday. It’s when he unleashes that smile that one goes all weak in the knee. It wouldn’t work at all if he smiled all the time like a toothpaste ad. And my sister this morning reproduces a good ad he put on during the Super Bowl. I wonder what fraction of a split second of that my contribution would have paid for.

I’ve had an email from his campaign manager urging me to Phone Five Friends. I would drive them into the enemy camp, I am sure, if I attempted any such thing.

There is one dear friend, a master knitter, who with her husband has been working hard for Edwards. I could ring up Isobel and have a nice time talking to her – but it wouldn’t be of much use, politically, because she lives in New Hampshire.

However, I did a small favour on request today for a friend who lives in Brookline. She is of the what-does-it-matter-they’re-all-the-same school, rather like Joe and Mar. And when I wrote to her telling her that I had executed the commission, I asked her to vote for Obama. If he wins in MA, you’ll know that it was all my doing.

I continue to think about swallowtail coats. I’ve read the Poet’s Coat pattern, and it doesn’t sound easy. The gauge is pretty tight – 7.5 stitches to the inch over linen stitch. It’s knit from the bottom up. It does form a tail in the back, although you can’t see it in the photograph. There’s some elegant short-rowing right at the beginning.

That won’t apply to me, since I’ll be splitting the back. Maybe once Tuesday is safely behind us, I’ll try it out with something from the stash, a sort of pre-swatch swatch.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Six Nations rugby season got itself underway yesterday. I don’t feel much enthusiasm this time, but I tried. I watched most of the match between Wales and England, and got quite a bit of knitting done – the gansey pattern is easy enough to accommodate rugby, at least when Scotland isn’t involved. There remains about 3.5” of the back to do.

Unfortunately the part of the match I didn’t watch, having drifted away to do something else, was the good bit. Wales came from way behind, and won.

Scotland play France today, here in Edinburgh. That’s often a good match, and the weather doesn’t seem likely to tempt us out for a walk.

I feel I have been churlish in not acknowledging, so far, Helen's and Kathy's nomination of this blog for the YMMD award. I was very touched.

I was interested in Helen’s list, too. (She’s brilliant at finding gems on the internet.) I know I ought to re-arrange my own list: I find I’m not bothering to look at a lot of the posts which I have asked igoogle to look out for and remind me of.

Leaving Helen and Kathy out of it, the ones I never miss are – will the list reach to ten? – Franklin, Queer Joe, Annie Modesitt, my sister and her family, Knitterguy, the Curmudgeon, Rabbitch of course, Lorna, Mel , and Sean. Ten it is -- 12, of course, really, because Helen and Kathy belong there.

Kathy, I love Nick’s hat. My plan for myself had been to gansey-knit single-mindedly until Tuesday, and then allow myself a couple of days frivolity per week – a scarf from Knitting New Scarves, a watchcap, maybe finish up those KF socks for Alexander’s birthday at the end of the month. (He was born in a leap year and has never been entirely forgiven, as I’ve probably said too often before, for not holding out until the 29th. He should be 12 this year, instead of whatever boring age it is he will have attained.)

But what if the nomination continues to be poised on a knife-edge?

On reflection – a million US pundits must already have said this – I don’t see how Obama could accept the VP nomination from Hillary, quite apart from the considerable Problem of Bill. It would be selling out to the Old Washington against which he has aimed his whole campaign. On the other hand, he’s young enough to think of ’12 or ’16 and maybe wouldn’t want to alienate the party high-heid-yins by being seen not to be a team player. Tough one to call. Let’s continue to hope he doesn’t have to.

I liked the clip of him which comes with this article igoogle found for me – Obama in reflective rather than oratorical mode.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I think we’re making real progress on the swallowtail coat front, thanks to helpful commenters.

I am going to run with Helen's comforting notion that anything goes, as long as it has split tails in back. She provides a delicious link in her comment yesterday to Ruskin in court dress. No wonder his wife ran off with Millais.

I had thought like you at one point, Karen, that a swallowtail coat had to be cut off abruptly at the waist in front – the costume, in fact, when rendered in red, of a circus ringmaster. That was the stage I had reached when I decided the Poet’s Coat wouldn’t do – it would have to be changed too radically.

But further research suggests at least that the term can also be applied to a coat which looks, in front, much like the Poet’s Coat, but which “swoops from the waist button to the center back in an arc”, in Fuzzarelly's most helpful words. Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher wears one at home, as Helen pointed out yesterday. Johnny Townmouse’s friends and relations do too, when they dress for dinner, but the pictures of Jeremy Fisher are more helpful.

So the swoop of the Poet’s Coat will have to be altered, so that it doesn’t finish until a point near the centre back. I think I would divide the tails in back somewhere near the waist, but only slope them very slightly on the inside, perhaps an inch or an inch and a half for each tail.

The next thing is to find some yarn – it must be of a beautiful blue. (I wonder if any of you will see where this is going.) I agree with you, Tamar – comment a few days ago – that alpaca, as prescribed in the book, is not what’s wanted. I should think a good honest DK weight in good honest wool. What one needs is a good honest LYS. Then a swatch. Then a plan actually done on knitter’s graph paper.

Miscellany and Politics

Dawn, I read and enjoyed Go Knit in Your Hat’s venture into politics. Manic Knitter, I had begun to hear rumbles of the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket. Trouble is, if Clinton goes top, the VP (unelected) will be named Bill: would Obama settle for that? My sister pooh-pooh’d the idea recently, on the very sound grounds that Clinton and Obama really don’t seem to like each other. I don’t understand why Edwards couldn’t run as VP again, but apparently not.

Here are the KF socks. I use slightly more than 100 grams to knit a pair of gent's socks, and have learned to save on yarn-buying (!) by finishing the toes from the odd-ball bag. In this case, the odd ball is the same KF colorway, in the stripy version.

And here the gansey:

Friday, February 01, 2008

I think we edged somewhat forward yesterday. My husband is willing to admit only that we held our ground. In any event, I feel a bit better.

London: we had four good days of looking at art. The highlights were the big show of pictures on loan from Russia at the Royal Academy, and Anthony McCall, who sculpts in light, at the Serpentine. Wonderful!

The remaining day, Sunday, was a welcome respite from art. Our son James, in Beijing, has become interested in family history and collects ancestors the way I collect Vogue Knitting Books. He had got wind of a family tomb in Brompton Cemetery, and had sent us instructions from the cemetery authorities about how to find it. Thomas-the-Elder kindly drove us there on Sunday afternoon.

It was a lovely afternoon, and a pleasant place, a Royal Park. (But for interesting dead people, you do better at Kensal Green.) We found our tomb with no difficulty, perfectly legible, not overgrown with ivy. This is a picture of my husband transcribing the inscriptions.

His great-grandfather is buried there, and Great Aunt Henrietta whom he can just remember.


The gansey progresses well. And I remember I have promised a pic of the KF socks.

“Boho Baby Knits” has arrived and is full of good things. It is sort of sad when you find yourself so far advanced in life that your grandchildren are, largely, past wearing such garments.

But not quite all of them. I am re-enthused about the Poet’s Coat. It is shaped in the front – I hadn’t realized that – and straight across the back. If this (discovered in an image-search) is really a swallowtail coat, the Poet’s Coat could easily be adapted to suit by the addition of a modest tail in the back.

But the Oxford English Dictionary is emphatic that “swallowtail” implies a forked tail, like a swallow. I need to struggle on with image-searching.